CD Review: “Spreading the Legacy” (Childress Family)
Though the Childress Family has been touring for over thirty years, for most of that time they have been known for what one of the original members became after leaving the group: Original member Shannon Childress was the Hoppers’ pianist and sometime producer from the mid-80s through the late-90s. This is unfortunate, because if this CD is any indication, the group is a pretty solid act on its own account.
All the group members are related; family patriarch and matriarch Ken and Marlene Childress are joined by daughters Carla Childress (soprano) and Teresa Childress Lutz (alto), as well as son-in-law Jamey Lutz (lead) and grand-daughter Courtney Lutz.
Though Shannon Childress has not re-joined the group, he did produce this project. The producer’s touch that helped propel the Hoppers to the top is in evidence on this project, especially on the soaring ballads “For What Earthly Reason” and “Who is He in Yonder Stall,” the project’s highlights.
Even though the project has several cover songs, the song placement gives the overall project the feel of a project of entirely new songs. Five of the new songs were written or co-written by family members (if two songs from Shannon’s pen are counted).
The album has a musical balance that reflects the variety of tastes within the family–ballads, convention songs, a piano solo, and even a few songs with a progressive feel. The songs with a more contemporary feel are the three on which granddaughter Courtney is featured; she brings vocal stylings reminiscent of a young Lauren Talley to songs like the cover of Natalie Grant’s “I Desire.” Though the range of styles present on the CD would suggest an artistic tension that is present to a minor degree, skillful song placement minimizes this drawback.
It seems odd to describe an ensemble that has been touring for over three decades as having potential, but that is the one word that this recording most brings to mind. Put another way, that the group is getting less recognition than the quality of this project suggests that it deserves. Granted, this project may not be quite at the level of a major-label high-budget release by a current top group. But it comes surprisingly close.